DeKALB – There was a moment that Chad Beebe thought his career was over.
After suffering a debilitating knee injury just before fall camp last season, Beebe is now shaking off the rust as he works his way back into form as one of the few senior receivers for the Northern Illinois football team.
“It’s one of those things, I’ve played football since I was seven, it’s my dream to be playing this game,” Beebe said. “Going into my senior year (in 2016), I thought it was going to be my last year and then I get hurt – thank goodness for the redshirt, but it was tough. Those first few weeks were hard.”
During a 7-on-7 drill before the 2016 fall camp, Beebe was running across the middle and went up for a pass and landed on somebody’s foot – tweaking his right knee and ending his season before it even began.
Beebe also battled back from breaking his arm in the 2014 Mid-American Conference Championship to play in 13 games in 2015.
“Sometimes God puts you through a little adversity to build character and I’m not going to shy away from it at all,” Beebe said.
In his three years, Beebe has 36 catches for 513 yards and two touchdowns in 35 games. He said he isn’t back to where he was before the knee injury and that he’s still working to regain his quickness.
“There’s some rust there, but he’s breaking it off and getting ready to go again,” NIU coach Rod Carey said. “He’s going to help us, we all know that.”
Beebe is one of four senior receivers for the Huskies, along with Christian Blake, Ezra Saffold and transfer Kelly Weese. The Huskies have a major void at the position with the graduation of Kenny Golladay and Aregeros Turner. Last season, Golladay finished with 87 catches for 1,156 yards and eight touchdowns and Turner was second on the team with 40 catches and had 415 yards with three touchdowns.
Turner (1,356) and Golladay (1,352) were also first and second in all-purpose yards.
“I have to fill in those big shoes that Kenny left and (Turner) and making those big plays when we need them most,” said Blake, who had 34 catches for 457 yards last season. “I have to work on being the guy this year. Beebe will help me out, Spencer, Ezra, (redshirt freshman Andrew Parchment) – all those guys will help me become the leader that Kenny and (Turner) were.”
Junior DJ Brown, who came to the Huskies as a running back, had nine catches for 91 yards and said he hopes to emulate the versatility that Turner brought to the offense.
“Following (Turner) last year, he taught me a lot and that’s the role that they want me to bring – the versatility to play receiver and go into the backfield and then jet (sweeps) and all those things that I bring,” Brown said. “Kenny was a good player, the ball went to him a lot of times. This year, the ball will be spread around but everybody can produce and has a role. I don’t know if we can replace Kenny, but we can do some damage with the talent we have in the room.”
Carey the Huskies will need to rely on the entire receiving corps, but said that the Huskies have a history of finding a way to overcome the graduation of a star player.
After the graduation of Heisman Trophy finalist Jordan Lynch at quarterback in 2013, the Huskies ended up winning the MAC championship the next season.
“It’s just like losing any great player,” Carey said. “We lost Lynch in (2013) and came back the next year and won the championship. We had to make up for it across the team. You can’t lose a great player and have the next guy be that great. You’re going to do it as a group.”